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*What! ...is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?*

-Holy Grail Bridgekeeper

Numerals | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

漢字 | 一 | 二 | 三 | 四 | 五 | 六 | 七 | 八 | 九 | 十 |

ひらがな | いち | に | さん | し／よん | ご | ろく | しち／なな | はち | きゅう | じゅう |

As the chart indicates, 4 can either be 「し」 or 「よん」 and 7 can either be 「しち」 or 「なな」. Basically, both are acceptable up to 10. However, past ten, the reading is almost always 「よん」 and 「なな」. In general, 「よん」 and 「なな」 are preferred over 「し」 and 「しち」 in most circumstances.

You can simply count from 1 to 99 with just these ten numbers. Japanese is easier than English in this respect because you do not have to memorize separate words such as "twenty" or "fifty". In Japanese, it's simply just "two ten" and "five ten".

（１） 三十一 （さんじゅういち） = 31

（２） 五十四 （ごじゅうよん）= 54

（３） 七十七 （ななじゅうなな）= 77

（４） 二十 （にじゅう） = 20

Notice that numbers are either always written in kanji or numerals because hiragana can get rather long and hard to decipher.

Numerals | 100 | 1,000 | 10,000 | 10^8 | 10^12 |
---|---|---|---|---|---|

漢字 | 百 | 千 | 万 | 億 | 兆 |

ひらがな | ひゃく | せん | まん | おく | ちょう |

Notice how the numbers jumped four digits from 10^4 to 10^8 between 万 and 億? That's because Japanese is divided into units of four. Once you get past 1万 (10,000), you start all over until you reach 9,999万, then it rotates to 1億 (100,000,000). By the way, 百 is 100 and 千 is 1,000, but anything past that, and you need to attach a 1 so the rest of the units become 一万 (10^4)、一億 (10^8)、一兆 (10^12).

Now you can count up to 9,999,999,999,999,999 or 9,999兆 just by chaining the numbers same as before. This is where the problems start, however. Try saying 「いちちょう」 、「ろくひゃく」、「さんせん」 really quickly, you'll notice it's difficult because of the repetition of similar consonant sounds. Therefore, Japanese people have decided to make it easier on themselves by pronouncing them as 「いっちょう」、 「ろっぴゃく」、and 「さんぜん」. We already discussed this near the end of the Kanji section. Unfortunately, it makes it all the harder for you to remember when to pronounce what. Here are all the slight sound changes.

Numerals | 漢字 | ひらがな |
---|---|---|

300 | 三百 | さんびゃく |

600 | 六百 | ろっぴゃく |

800 | 八百 | はっぴゃく |

3000 | 三千 | さんぜん |

8000 | 八千 | はっせん |

10^12 | 一兆 | いっちょう |

（１） 四万三千七十六 （よんまんさんぜんななじゅうろく） = 43,076

（２） 七億六百二十四万九千二百二十二 （ななおくろっぴゃくにじゅうよんまんきゅうせんにひゃくにじゅうに） = 706,249,222

（３） 五百兆二万一 （ごひゃくちょうにまんいち） = 500,000,000,020,001

Notice that it is customary to write large numbers only in numerals as even kanji can become difficult to decipher.

Some of you may be clamoring for larger numbers but you'll hardly ever use 「億」 much less 「兆」. I will guarantee that you will not need to know this but I looked up a list for curiosity's sake.

（１） 0.0021 - ゼロ、点、ゼロ、ゼロ、二、一。

For negative numbers, everything is the same as positive numbers except that you say 「マイナス」 first.

（１） マイナス二十九 = -29

Saying the months is actually easier than English because all you have to do is write the number (either in numerals or kanji) of the month and add 「月」 which is read as 「がつ」. However, you need to pay attention to April （４月）, July （７月）, and September （９月） which are pronounced 「しがつ」、 「しちがつ」、and 「くがつ」 respectively.

Finally, we get to the days of the month, which is where the headache starts. The first day of the month is
「ついたち」 （一日）;
*different* from 「いちにち」 （一日）, which
means "one day". Besides this and some other exceptions we'll soon cover, you can simply say the number and add
「日」 which is pronounced
here as 「にち」. For example, the 26th becomes 26日 （にじゅうろくにち）. Pretty simple,
*however*, the first 10 days, the 14th, 19th, 20th, 29th have special readings that
you must separately memorize. If you like memorizing things, you'll have a ball here. Notice that the kanji doesn't change but the reading does.

英 語 |
the 1st | the 2nd | the 3rd | the 4th | the 5th | the 6th | the 7th | the 8th | the 9th | the 10th | the 14th | the 19th | the 20th | the 24th | the 29th |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

漢 字 |
一 日 |
二 日 |
三 日 |
四 日 |
五 日 |
六 日 |
七 日 |
八 日 |
九 日 |
十 日 |
十 四 日 |
十 九 日 |
二 十 日 |
二 十 四 日 |
二 十 九 日 |

ひ ら が な |
つ い た ち |
ふ つ か |
み っ か |
よ っ か |
い つ か |
む い か |
な の か |
よ う か |
こ こ の か |
と お か |
じ ゅ う よ っ か |
じ ゅ う く に ち |
は つ か |
に じ ゅ う よ っ か |
に じ ゅ う く に ち |

In Japan, the full format for dates follows the international date format and looks like: XXXX年YY月ZZ日. For example, today's date would be: 2003年12月 2日

英語 | 4 o'clock | 7 o'clock | 9 o'clock |
---|---|---|---|

漢字 | 四時 | 七時 | 九時 |

ひらがな | よじ | しちじ | くじ |

Notice how the numbers 4, 7, and 9 keep coming up to be a pain in the butt? Well, those and sometimes 1, 6 and 8 are the numbers to watch out for.

The minutes are given by adding 「分」 which usually read as 「ふん」 with the following exceptions:

英語 | 1 min | 3 min | 4 min | 6 min | 8 min | 10 min |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

漢字 | 一分 | 三分 | 四分 | 六分 | 八分 | 十分 |

ひらがな | いっぷん | さんぷん | よんぷん | ろっぷん | はっぷん | じゅっぷん |

For higher number, you use the normal pronunciation for the higher digits and rotate around the same readings for 1 to 10. For instance, 24 minutes is 「にじゅうよんぷん」 （二十四分） while 30 minutes is 「さんじゅっぷん」 （三十分）. There are also other less common but still correct pronunciations such as 「はちふん」 for 「八分」 and 「じっぷん」 for 「十分」 (this one is almost never used).

All readings for seconds consists of the number plus 「秒」, which is read as 「びょう」. There are no exceptions for seconds and all the readings are the same.

Some examples of time.

（１） 1時24分（いちじ・にじゅうよんぷん） - 1:24

（２） 午後4時10分 （ごご・よじ・じゅっぷん） - 4:10 PM

（３） 午前9時16分 （ごぜん・くじ・じゅうろっぷん） - 9:16 AM

（４） 13時16分 （じゅうさんじ・じゅうろっぷん） - 13:16

（５） 2時18分13秒 （にじ・じゅうはっぷん・じゅうさんびょう） - 2:18:13

（１） 二時間四十分 （にじかん・よんじゅっぷん） - 2 hours and 40 minutes

（２） 二十日間 （はつかかん） - 20 days

（３） 十五日間 （じゅうごにちかん） - 15 days

（４） 二年間 （にねんかん） - two years

（５） 三週間 （さんしゅうかん） - three weeks

（６） 一日 （いちにち） - 1 day

As mentioned before, a period of one day is 「一日」
（いちにち） which is different from the 1st of the month:
「ついたち」.

Pronunciations to watch out for when counting weeks is one week: 「一週間」 （いっしゅうかん） and 8 weeks: 「八週間」 （はっしゅうかん）.

To count the number of months, you simple take a regular number and add 「か」 and 「月」
which is pronounced here as 「げつ」 and *not*
「がつ」. The 「か」 used in this counter is usually written as a small katakana 「ヶ」 which is confusing because
it's still pronounced as 「か」 and not 「け」. The small 「ヶ」 is actually totally different from the katakana 「ケ」 and is really an abbreviation for the kanji
「箇」, the original kanji for the counter. This small 「ヶ」 is also used in some place names such as 「千駄*ヶ*谷」 and
other counters, such as the counter for location described in the "Other Counters" section below.

In counting months, you should watch out for the following sound changes:

英語 | 1 month | 6 months | 10 months |
---|---|---|---|

漢字 | 一ヶ月 | 六ヶ月 | 十ヶ月 |

ひらがな | いっかげつ | ろっかげつ | じゅっかげつ |

Just like minutes, the high numbers rotate back using the same sounds for 1 to 10.

（１） 十一ヶ月 （じゅういっかげつ） - Eleven months

（２） 二十ヶ月 （にじゅっかげつ） - Twenty months

（３） 三十三ヶ月 （さんじゅうさんかげつ） - Thirty three months

日本語 | When to Use |
---|---|

人 | To count the number of people |

本 | To count long, cylindrical objects such as bottles or chopsticks |

枚 | To count thin objects such as paper or shirts |

冊 | To count bound objects usually books |

匹 | To count small animals like cats or dogs |

歳 | To count the age of a living creatures such as people |

個 | To count small (often round) objects |

回 | To count number of times |

ヶ所（箇所） | To count number of locations |

つ | To count any generic object that has a rare or no counter |

人 | 本 | 枚 | 冊 | 匹 | 歳 | 個 | 回 | ヶ所（箇所） | つ | |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

1 | ひとり |
いっぽん |
いちまい | いっさつ |
いっぴき |
いっさい |
いっこ |
いっかい |
いっかしょ |
ひとつ |

2 | ふたり |
にほん | にまい | にさつ | にひき | にさい | にこ | にかい | にかしょ | ふたつ |

3 | さんにん | さんぼん |
さんまい | さんさつ | さんびき |
さんさい | さんこ | さんかい | さんかしょ | みっつ |

4 | よにん | よんほん | よんまい | よんさつ | よんひき | よんさい | よんこ | よんかい | よんかしょ | よっつ |

5 | ごにん | ごほん | ごまい | ごさつ | ごひき | ごさい | ごこ | ごかい | ごかしょ | いつつ |

6 | ろくにん | ろっぽん |
ろくまい | ろくさつ | ろっぴき |
ろくさい | ろっこ |
ろっかい |
ろっかしょ |
むっつ |

7 | しちにん |
ななほん | ななまい | ななさつ | ななひき | ななさい | ななこ | ななかい | ななかしょ | ななつ |

8 | はちにん | はちほん | はちまい | はっさつ |
はっぴき |
はっさい |
はっこ |
はちかい | はっかしょ |
やっつ |

9 | きゅうにん | きゅうほん | きゅうまい | きゅうさつ | きゅうひき | きゅうさい | きゅうこ | きゅうかい | きゅうかしょ | ここのつ |

10 | じゅうにん | じゅっぽん |
じゅうまい | じゅっさつ |
じゅっぴき |
じゅっさい |
じゅっこ |
じゅっかい |
じゅっかしょ |
とお |

The changed sounds have been highlighted.
You don't count 0 because there is nothing to count. You can simply use 「ない」 or
「いない」. The chart has hiragana for pronunciation but, as before,
it is usually written with either numbers or kanji plus the counter with the single exception of 「とお」 which is
simply written as 「十」.

For higher numbers, it's the same as before, you use
the normal pronunciation for the higher digits and rotate around the same readings for 1 to 10 except for 「一人」
and 「二人」 which transforms to the normal 「いち」
and 「に」 once you get past the first two. So 「一人」 is
「ひとり」 while 「11人」 is
「じゅういちにん」.
Also, the generic counter 「～つ」 only applies up to exactly ten items. Past that, you can just use regular plain numbers.

Note: The counter for age is often sometimes written as 「才」 for those who don't have the time to write out the more complex kanji. Plus, age 20 is usually read as 「はたち」 and not 「にじゅっさい」.

This page has last been revised on 2007/1/22